Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Ditmas Park)and Democratic District Leader Josh Skaller (D-Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, DUMBO) yesterday announced they will submit two amendments to reform the existing Kings County Democratic Party’s proxy rules at tonight’s Party County Committee meeting.
The issue of how to handle proxy votes has been one of the most contentious for the party. That because each assembly district has dozens of Democratic county committee member seats, many of which are vacant and some of whom hardly care, have time for or know about upcoming meetings and decisions made by county party leaders.
Thus, Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio and his Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club in Canarsie send out cards to committee members to give their votes to him as proxies. This year, out of fear they are losing political ground, Seddio and the club has been sending out emails and letters signed from various officials without their permission asking for proxy votes.
Not to be outdone is the ultra progressive New Kings Democrats (NKD) political club and other ultra-mined progressives, who have been scouring the county for their own proxy votes in anticipation of the meeting. Their makeup is largely the new and growing class of Brooklnites that some characterize as gentrifiers, and have started going into traditionally lower-income neighborhoods to recruit similar-minded people to become committee members and/or give proxies to them.
Thus Carroll and Skaller – both longtime Brooklynites – have submitted the two reform amendments to existing rules.
The first amends Article II Section 4 Paragraph C of the county committee rules with wording as follows:
“Any person or entity that distributes a proxy card to a county committee member must include the following warning in bold and prominent type on the face of any proxy card they distribute: ‘You are a member of the Kings County Democratic County Committee and are encouraged to attend the upcoming meeting of the County Committee. By signing and returning this proxy you are waiving and releasing your voting privileges to the holder of this proxy and you will have no control of how the holder of this proxy votes unless you expressly limit the proxy holder’s right to vote or expressly direct the proxy holders vote. After signing and returning this proxy you can revoke this proxy by signing another proxy at a later date or by attending the upcoming county committee meeting and expressly revoking this proxy.”
The warning and explanation of the proxy is necessary so that rank and file members of the county committee understand how the proxy system works as well as the ramifications of signing and returning their proxy.
Carroll and Skaller’s second reform would amend Article II Section 4 Paragraph C and delete Article III Section 5 Paragraph A of the County Committee Rules. The first sentence of Article II Section 4 Paragraph C would be amended as follows (new language bolded and italicized):
“A member of the County Committee may only authorize as his/her proxy to another member of the Committee from his/her Assembly District and the person requesting the proxy must list his/her name, address, phone number, and email address on the face of the proxy card.
“These are common-sense reforms that, if enacted, would add accountability and transparency to the proxy voting rules of the Kings County Democratic Party,” said Carroll. “The lead up to the biennial County Committee meeting has given way to behavior from the County Organization and other party activists that has created an anti-reform proxy fight between factions of the Party that are both largely unknown to my constituents.”
“As someone who cares deeply about reforming our Brooklyn Democratic Party, it is important that we encourage all county committee members to participate in the Biennial County Committee meeting and that if they cannot that the holder of their proxy vote be accountable and available for them to reach,” he added.
The press release announcing the amendments have fairly widespread support, from the northern end of the borough and to come extent, Central Brooklyn.
“My constituents overwhelmingly favor a Brooklyn Democratic Party that is transparent and engages voters at the grassroots. Unfortunately, as we approach the biennial County Committee organizational meeting, a decidedly un-reform proxy fight has ensued and amongst county committee members, confusion now reigns,”said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (D-Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, DUMBO). “These proposed rule reforms would help restore reliance on more accessible, local leadership.”
“I support the proxy reforms proposed by Assemblymember Carroll. Transparency and openness are key pillars in building accountability and trust, which are necessary for any great democracy to thrive,”said Assemblymember Diana Richardson (D-Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush).
“We are at an important moment right now with more and more people becoming engaged with politics and with their local organizations. If we wish to continue this and foster participation and increased accountability, we must make these two reforms, both of which I fully support, to how the Brooklyn Democratic County Committee conducts its business. Proxy voting rules have long been a source of confusion and manipulation to committee members, and this will ensure members are aware of what their proxy vote means,” said Assemblyman Walter Mosley (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights).
“Openness and transparency are the basis of any democratic society. The Brooklyn County Committee has the largest and most active membership. To ensure that every member’s vote reflects their understanding and intent, these reforms are most necessary. We strive to encourage more open participation and stronger grass roots involvement at all levels. I am proud to work with Assemblymember Robert Carroll to establish these reforms and to promote a stronger, more cohesive voice in our Democratic Party that reflects the diversity and demographics of our borough,”said District Leader Lori Knipel (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Ditmas Park).
“This is exactly the type of sensible and simple proxy reform that was central to my campaign. I look forward to working with Assembly Member Carroll to pass these much needed reforms,”said District Leader Doug Schneider (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Ditmas Park).
“I support these reforms because the County Committee should be about Brooklynites amplifying their neighbors’ voices, and not just silently handing our power to one back room operator,” District Leader Nick Rizzo (D-Greenpoint, Williamsburg).
The Kings County Democratic Party County Committee meeting is slated for 6 p.m., tonight at the Leon M. Goldstein Performing Arts Center of Kingsborough Community College, 2001 Oriental Boulevard in Manhattan Beach.